It’s too early to “call” anything here, but it does look at the moment as if Israel is preempting Iran in Syria, after recent reporting that threatening Iranian movements were detected there, and Israeli forces were placed on high alert.
A report a couple of hours ago indicates that the Iranian base at Al-Kiswah, south of Damascus, was hit by an air strike on Tuesday night, 8 May 2018. Syrian news is saying the strike came from Israeli aircraft.
Al-Kiswah is the base we looked at in April, as a possible staging area for Iranian drone operations. Israel has struck it before, in December 2017.
The whole area around the base has been prepared for military activities — training, operational support, perimeter defense — and the compound is probably being used for multiple purposes. The proximate reason for studying the Al-Kiswah facility in 20 April was the report on 19 April of three Iranian drones being interdicted by the Russians, south of Al-Kiswah and possibly headed for Israel.
The report of the drones in April followed Israel’s crippling attack on the Iranian facilities at the T4 airbase in central Syria, when Israel also revealed that the drone intrusion by Iran in February involved a drone loaded with explosives.
We don’t know if there have been other Iranian attempts, beyond the apparent drone flight on 19 April.
— Qalaat Al Mudiq (@QalaatAlMudiq) May 8, 2018
But it’s an informative data point, if Russian fighters did prevent the 19 April flight of drones from heading into Israel, but perhaps signaled recently that they would no longer try to hold Iran in check that way. That’s speculation, of course. We don’t have enough facts to validate that hypothesis or proceed on its basis.
Whatever Russia’s posture, it appears Israel deems it necessary to take preemptive action against Iran in Syria. I think the end-state here is Iran standing down from whatever threatening posture she has been wriggling into, and pulling her horns in for the time being. If that doesn’t happen, the Israeli operation isn’t over.